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Sophomores Face the Digital PSAT 

Updated: Mar 20

By Cristina Damato 

When the juniors took the PSAT online on October 11th, to say that it was chaos is putting it lightly. Technology issues delayed the exam for a full hour, resulting in laughable 15-minute periods for the rest of the day. Luckily, some wrinkles had been smoothed out by the time the 10th graders took the test on Wednesday, March 6th.

Sophomore Charis Choi stated that she had been “skeptical” as to whether or not she would be able to “perform well through a screen, as paper is much more comfortable when annotating and analyzing texts.” She was pleasantly surprised that she enjoyed the online format, appreciating the shorter texts and the fact that the timer was visible on screen.

According to the College Board, several changes come with the transition to digital testing. Passages and the test itself are shorter, and it spans a wider range of topics. Calculators, including an imbedded graphing calculator, are now allowed on the entire math section. Additionally, the technology allows the test to be adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the questions you receive changes based on how well you are doing. This makes it virtually impossible for students to share answers.

However, some things are staying the same. For instance, the College Board wrote in an article about the new format, “The SAT Suite will continue to measure the knowledge and skills that students are learning in high school and that matter most for college and career readiness.” In addition, practice resources remain available through Khan Academy, and both the SAT and PSAT will continue to be scored out of 1600.

Recently, the relevance of SAT scores has been a topic of debate. The New York Times reported that many colleges have enacted a test-optional policy, allowing students to decide whether or not they would submit their SAT or ACT scores. This is believed to give more equal opportunities to applicants of all backgrounds. Critics of standardized testing worry that the SAT and ACT do nothing but create stress for teenagers and say that reducing a person to a single number is meaningless.

However, top schools such as Yale and Dartmouth recently undid these policies, which they instated during the pandemic, citing research that challenges other institutions’ views. Opportunity Insights, a group of economists based at Harvard, believes that high test scores can make a student from a high school with fewer opportunities stand out. In addition, according to the New York Times, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale stated that, “test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s performance in Yale courses in every model we have constructed.”

Regardless of the future of the SAT, the former pen-and-paper test is gone. The students of tomorrow should expect changes such as the PSAT going digital to transform how they do schoolwork, take tests, and apply for college. How would you rather take your test?

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